Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You? NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues

We're Working Hard To Get It Right

A Look Back

When I got married, the minister gave my husband some advice. He said, "Just get up every morning and say you're sorry. That way, you'll be covered for the rest of the day."

I was thinking about that advice this week as we prepare for another significant anniversary. No, I am not talking about my marriage, although that's going along nicely, and I'm not talking about President Obama's first 100 days in office, although we'll be covering that, too.

I am talking about our anniversary here at Tell Me More. We celebrate our second anniversary on the air this Thursday.

Can I just tell you? It occurred to me, I should have followed the minister's advice when we started the program two years ago. Don't misunderstand me: We love what we're doing; we feel strongly that we are adding something of value, or else why would we be here?

But, like everybody else in the news business, we work hard to get it right. And sometimes we get things wrong.

I have gotten titles wrong. (I got Karl Rove's title wrong. I wish I could remember what kind of brain freeze was going on that day, but I cannot. He was nice about it ... sort of. (Anyway, I'm sorry. ... ) I have mispronounced people's names more times than I care to admit.

I'm not making excuses, but you try pronouncing names in Yoruba, Ojibwe and French — in the same hour — and you'll see what I'm talking about.

But, I'm sorry!

And sometimes we are slower on the uptake than we might like. Like all of us in the media, it is an ongoing balancing act. Really, it's like taking a quiz every day to figure out, first, what's going on in the world and, second, what it means and why people might need or want to know more about it.

In our case, that task is made a bit more complicated by the fact that our organizing principle is, well, to tell you more — to go beyond and around the stories that capture the headlines elsewhere, not to ignore what everyone else is talking about but to try to see another side to it. Or, to pursue stories that may not be at the top of the news in other media, but that speak to something authentic about the contemporary American experience.

And what is that experience?

For one thing, it is increasingly multi-ethnic and international. You may have noticed that we spend a lot of time seeking out voices from diverse backgrounds. We are interested in issues of particular concern to people of color, not because we have some ax to grind or because we think nobody else cares, but because we think these issues are often not a priority in other venues. And yet we think these rising leaders and emerging issues are critical to understanding the country we are and the country we are going to become. And telling these stories is all the more important, in my view, as we try to get through this period of retrenchment in the media, when every day brings stories of yet more news outlets shrinking or closing altogether.

So, to all the people whose names I mangled, I'm sorry. To all the people whose great ideas I ignored, I'm sorry.

And now, if we can ask something of you ...

We want to do better. We want to tell stories that inform, inspire, whet the appetite to know more. But we need you to help us. So, for our second birthday, save the postage on the cake and just shoot us an e-mail. Tell us more about how the program works for you — or doesn't.



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Can I Just Tell You?Can I Just Tell You? NPR's Michel Martin gives a distinct take on news and issues